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Archive for June, 2011

Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow Joins SavingStar Board of Directors

June 30th, 2011 06:57 admin View Comments

SavingStar, the national paperless grocery coupon service, announced today that Michael Lazerow, the founder and CEO of Buddy Media, has joined the company’s board of directors. Launched in April 2011, SavingStar provides digital coupons to more than 24,000 stores and over 100 supermarket and drugstore chains across the U.S.

SavingStar’s eCoupons are available on the web and through the company’s iPhone and Android apps, and are linked to users’ registered loyalty cards. Rather than applying coupons at the register, the savings are automatically deposited into users’ SavingStar accounts, where they can pick their payout from a deposit into their bank account or PayPal account, an Amazon gift card, or a donation to charity. Nearly 500,000 users have signed up for SavingStar in the two months since the service went live. Participating brands include Nestle, Clorox, Heinz, Welch’s, Dannon, Ocean Spray, and more.

In 2007, Lazerow co-founded Buddy Media, a Facebook management system for global advertisers. With its scalable, secure architecture and straightforward administrative tools, it is the only solution that allows brands to launch, maintain and measure their Facebook presence in any country and in any language. Prior to Buddy Media, Lazerow founded Golf.com, which was sold to Time Warner. Before that, he founded University Wire, an Associated Press-like network of more than 700 student-run newspapers and sold it to Student Advantage, helping it grow into the premier college media and marketing company.

Lazerow joins SavingStar’s current outside board members Jeff Bussbang of Flybridge Capital Partners, Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital, and David Coppins of Upromise. The company announced a $7 Million Series B funding in April.

Source: Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow Joins SavingStar Board of Directors

First Thunderbolt Peripherals Arrive To Market

June 30th, 2011 06:40 admin View Comments

Data Storage

MojoKid writes “Promise Technology recently launched the first Thunderbolt-compatible devices; the company’s Pegasus RAID R4 and R6 storage solutions can now be ordered from the Apple Store. There’s a catch, however. In order to use either storage array, one must first purchase a cable directly from Apple. The company has priced the two meter cable at $50. As it turns out, Thunderbolt uses what’s called an active cable. Inside the cable there’s a pair of Gunnum GN2033 transceivers. The GN2033 is a tiny, low power transceiver chip designed to be placed inside the connectors at either end of a Thunderbolt cable, enabling dual bidirectional 10Gb/s concurrent links over narrow-gauge copper wires. The cable’s $50 price may be justified, but it’s also a further reminder of why Thunderbolt may follow FireWire’s path into obsolescence. Apple is the only company currently selling Thunderbolt cables.”

Source: First Thunderbolt Peripherals Arrive To Market

Turn Google+ Into Facebook

June 30th, 2011 06:10 admin View Comments


The social networking wars have dialed it up to 11 this week, with Google unleashing its highly anticipated (and highly leaked) Google+ social initiative upon the world on Tuesday — to not a bad response, to be honest. So it’s not that surprising that today Facebook countered the + hubbub with its own “we’ve got something awesome” unveiling planned for next week. You crazy kids!

The resemblance between the two social networks is uncanny — my Tweet-length opinion is that Google+ is like Facebook with a more usable, streamlined Photos and Groups interface (and that might be enough to win). Only time will tell.

In the meantime, for those of you who have the decidedly middle class problem of social network fatigue, there is a solution. Thanks to the unlimited creativity of  humans, you can now actually make your Google+ look like Facebook, with the Google+ : Facebook Stylish extension or this CSS code.

I love this.

Source: Turn Google+ Into Facebook

Police Vulture Training Not a Success

June 30th, 2011 06:37 admin View Comments

Image

rbrausse writes “Some time ago Slashdot covered the German police vulture training scheme, now it is time for a follow-up. BBC reports that the project has failed to take off, the trained vulture hasn’t shown interest in working as a detective and confuses human with animal remains. Additionally the bird is shy and prefers to travel by foot.”

Source: Police Vulture Training Not a Success

Behold: Path Comes To Android In Public Beta

June 30th, 2011 06:17 admin View Comments

Well, well, well. It looks like everybody’s favorite limited social networking and photo-sharing app has finally come to Android. That’s right, Path announced via its blog that Path for Android will be available in the Android Market beginning today. And sure it enough, it is. Check it out. But this is by no means a finished product. Path considers Version 1.0 of its Android app to be a public beta, using it to test the waters and learn what works and doesn’t work as it ports to a new mobile OS.

This maiden voyage for Android has quite a few of the familiar features that Path fans have come to enjoy, but according to Path Co-founder Dave Morin, there’s much more to come.

For those unfamiliar with Path, the startup was founded in 2010 by Dave Morin and Dustin Mierau as an alternative approach to the idea of broadly sharable social information, targeting sharing among a smaller group of close friends and family. With a 50 friend limit, Path chose to offer no outside sharing features, Facebook, or Twitter. The team later amended this by adding a complementary app for Twitter photo sharing called With and has added a host of features, like Stacks, and more.

Since its inception, the startup has grown in fits and starts, but has been on a kick this year, turning down a $100 million acquisition offer from Google and raising an $8.5 million round from Kleiner, Index, and more.

Though the app got its start on iOS and has grown its feature set on Apple’s platform, today proves that there’s no OS bias over at Path. After all, it seems par for the course today for app developers to start with Apple before moving to Android. As is such, Path’s Android v1.0 doesn’t quite offer the full suite of features available on iOS, but it does include quite a few of the components Path is known for.

Users capture and share photos with the same 50-friend limit, tag moments with people, places, and things, view friends’ moments, and make use Path emoticons to let friends and family know how you feel about their pictures and moments. Users can also take advantage of chat, see when friends have viewed their moments, and even publish a few moments to Facebook.

It’s a great start for an Android public beta, and there’s more to come. As Path’s blog entry indicates, the startup will “continue to iterate and release updates with more features frequently”, and uses can expect things to improve rapidly as Path continues through beta.

Path is currently available for users of Eclair version 2.1 and up.

Source: Behold: Path Comes To Android In Public Beta

Bing Gordon: Every Startup CEO Should Understand Gamification

June 30th, 2011 06:22 admin View Comments

Former EA executive, KPCB sFund lead and all around inspiring person Bing Gordon led a talk today at the sFund Gamification Summit breaking down platitudes like “gamification is important” into key actionable takeaways on how succeed with gamification, takeaways that could be reformatted and applied to any company as a measure of success.

When asked why he went through the trouble of putting his guide to how to successfully gamify together for entrepreneurs, Bing told me, “Every startup CEO should understand gamification, because the new normal is games,” referring to the fact that every one who had a Nintendo at 16 also has a brain that works in a specific way that’s more receptive to game elements. “We are overdeveloping the visual cortex of our customers,” he said.

Gamification is as important as social and mobile Gordon told me, which makes sense, as elements like rewarding people for behavior are pure human psychology. His talk was separated into a three-pronged approach, Acquire, Engage and Retain, “All your experiences are three part experiences,” he said.

The best way to acquire customers was to eliminate bounce, by creating a pleasant experience at first entry way, being said. “If you create cognitive dissonance in the first 5 seconds they bounce,” he said.  Designers should aim for creating a “touchable box” or something that people want to touch. He then referred to the game’s interface as being an engine, saying that a great UX/UI guy could save a company from having to throw out thousands of lines of code and could replace five engineers.

Baked in virality was also emphasized as a huge part of customer acquisition, and Gordon said that addition of Facebook profiles were responsible for 15 million versus 1 million monthly active users on Zynga Poker. Adding a friend bar meant 70 million MAUs versus two million on Farmville according to Gordon. “People come back more often when they have a date,” he said.

In terms of user engagement, Gordon advised CEOs that first impressions matter, “Your job is to create a “Wow” within the first session … The value of gamification is the mechanics second and the mind of gamers first.”

Things like virtual goods, showing numbers and giving badges are ways to positively reinforce users for playing your game. Letting them own part of the game by generating and submitting their own content was another way to solidify this emotional bond between creator and user.

Bing also emphasized the value of avatars in games, “Any kind of avatar that people buy into can dramatically change engagement.” It makes sense, people love things that give them a sense of identity. If a game, service or anything really can give them that, then they’re hooked.

Constraints, pre-announcements, and engendering social obligations to play a game were other things Gordon touched on that can contribute to customer retention. He said that the number one question on a game designer’s mind should be “Will she come back?” and then “When?”

“We’re in an era where we can have billion dollar audiences,” he closed out the talk saying. There’s no harm in using a few tried and true devices to keep people coming back.

Source: Bing Gordon: Every Startup CEO Should Understand Gamification

Despite Controversy, Federal Wiretaps On the Rise

June 30th, 2011 06:22 admin View Comments

Privacy

coondoggie writes with a report that “Federal and state requests for court permission to intercept or wiretap electronic communications increased 34% in 2010 over 2009 with California, New York, and New Jersey accounting for 68% of all wire taps approved by state judges. According to the 2010 Wiretap Report, released today by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) the most frequently noted location in wiretap requests was ‘portable device,’ a category that includes cellular telephones and digital pagers.”

Source: Despite Controversy, Federal Wiretaps On the Rise

Want To See Which Ads Perform Best? YC-Backed MixRank Is A Spy Tool For AdSense

June 30th, 2011 06:26 admin View Comments

Online advertising is growing, and much of that growth is happening in display advertising. While search ads still make up 46 percent of the total over display’s 38 percent, display grew twice as fast as search in 2010. Many online businesses rely on advertising as a supplemental revenue stream in support of their business model — if not the sole source — especially from AdSense. As such, companies and startups spend a lot of time testing out different ad iterations, looks, and copy in an effort to find the most clickable ad content and the most lucrative campaigns. And, interestingly, relatively tiny tweaks to wording and content in ads can have a fairly dramatic effect on clickthrough rates, increasing them as much as tenfold.

A lot of businesses end up losing valuable time and money trying out different wordings and approaches, which is why MixRank, a startup out of the latest class of Y Combinator companies, is today launching a competitive intelligence service that clues businesses into how successful the AdSense display and contextual advertising of other companies (read: their competitors) has been. If, for example, your business is advertising a similar product to another company in the space, MixRank allows users to skip past the some 80 percent of ads that lose money, and view the methods of attack that are working for their competitors. Users can also view the sites that are directing the most traffic to their competitors.

To make this possible, MixRank has effectively created a search engine for AdSense that crawls pages running Google ads, and since Google sorts these ads by effectiveness, MixRank indexes this data and estimates ad performance. After crawling these pages, MixRank takes into account Google’s sorting of the ads by effectiveness, then uses this data to serve essential performance analytics.

As you can get a sense from the image above, MixRank’s service yields a ton of interesting data for advertisers. Using MixRank’s dashboard, users can see that, of the different wordings WooMe is testing for their Google ads, the top phrasing has been far more successful than the other pilots. As advertisers employ different calls to action in their advertising, these businesses can now get a better sense of whether using immediacy, scarcity, or time limits, etc will be more effective in selling their products. Users can quickly test these different calls and easily see what’s working.

As one can see in this example of Gillette advertising, the most successful ads don’t target sites that have the same theme as the product they’re hawking, but instead using common cases, problems, and questions to address their potential customers. The top Gillette ad for deodorant is “Interview with confidence”, for example.

Mixrank Founder Ilya Lichtenstein, whose background is in affiliate marketing, told me that many of the seemingly pervasive daily deals sites out there all essentially play “follow the leader” when it comes to advertising (as they seem to do with business models and more). Many of the smaller sites can’t compete with the leaders like Groupon and LivingSocial, because they don’t have the resources to build a large team of salespeople, researchers, and copywriters, so they find the easiest ways to mimic the leaders.

So, because it’s true that, in any highly competitive market with thin margins, there are usually only a few ads or traffic sources that resonate with customers and get big CTRs, MixRank levels the playing field. It allows smaller businesses access to the same copy, content, testing and comparative analysis that the big boys utilize; smaller operations can see where their competitors are buying ad real estate and view what type of ad copy is working best.

At this point, MixRank indexes 93,000 sites using Google AdSense, but that number continues to grow every day. One might, of course, assume that a caveat to MixRank’s business might be intrinsic to scaling and adoption, but even as more and more businesses sign up to use the service, it seems that ads will only become more efficient at a faster rate, as each team learns from another’s experiments. And, in the end, that could be better for consumers, too.

MixRank is completely free at this point, as it tests the market to see what kind of adoption it will see, but Lichtenstein told me he has plans to eventually implement a subscription model (an affordable monthly one) to monetize. And big picture plans include building a model of the whole display market, which may eventually include machine learning to work towards building a prediction engine that can tell users which particular version of a campaign might be the most successful.

It’s a deceptively simple concept, but a very interesting one, so check it out, and let us know what you think.

Source: Want To See Which Ads Perform Best? YC-Backed MixRank Is A Spy Tool For AdSense

What’s Facebook Releasing Next Week? Not Project Spartan.

June 30th, 2011 06:17 admin View Comments

Apparently, Facebook is gearing up to show off something “awesome” next week. At least, that’s what CEO Mark Zuckerberg told reporters while he was visting the Seattle Facebook offices yesterday. Reuters reports that whatever it is, it has been developed by the 40-person team based in Seattle. And they think it might be in the mobile or tablet space.

All we know for sure is that it won’t be Project Spartan, the HTML5-based app platform that Facebook has been working on with a small group of outside developers in secret for months. Spartan will not be ready to go before the middle of July at the earliest, we’re told — nor is it based in Seattle.

What is based in Seattle are teams with deep ties to mobile. Earlier this year, the team up there put a lot of work into merging the m.facebook.com and touch.facebook.com sites together. Given that part of what we’ve seen in the leaked Facebook mobile photos app closely resembles a part of the new photo experience on m.facebook.com, it’s possible Facebook will unveil their new mobile photos offering from Seattle. All we’ve heard recently is that the pictures we leaked were somewhat old (but very real). We also believe that there will not be a stand-alone app when it’s released, but rather, it will be a part of the current Facebook app experience.

We also know that the Facebook team in Seattle has been trying to build up a desktop software team. But the hiring is ongoing for that, so don’t expect any news out of that department for quite some time.

The wildcard is the iPad app. We know it’s coming soon, and have spoken with multiple people who have seen it now. It’s not clear if the Seattle team built it or not, but it’s certainly possible.

Update: One source says it “highly unlikely” that Facebook’s announcement next week is the iPad app.

Source: What’s Facebook Releasing Next Week? Not Project Spartan.

Hard Drive Overclocking Competition From Secau

June 30th, 2011 06:42 admin View Comments

Data Storage

Blittzed writes “We were reminiscing about the good old days of overclocking CPUs and memory, and the subject of hard drive overcloking came up. The discussion / argument we were having in the research lab ended up in a bet which now has to be settled. So, we are putting our money where our mouth is, and putting up $10,000 to anyone who can read a 500GB drive in under an hour. We will also consider other attempts with a smaller amount of money in the event that the one hour is not possible. There are a few rules (e.g. the drive still needs to work afterwards), but otherwise nothing is ruled out. Specific details can be found on the URL. Go let the white smoke out!”

Source: Hard Drive Overclocking Competition From Secau

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